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NHK ordered to pay damages to indigenous Taiwanese woman for defaming her

26 Comments

A Japanese court has ordered public broadcaster NHK to pay damages to an indigenous Taiwanese woman for defaming her by using the term "human zoo" in a program, officials said Friday.

Overturning a lower court ruling, the Tokyo High Court ordered NHK to pay 1 million yen to the woman, with presiding judge Noriaki Sudo reportedly saying the broadcaster used a term that had a "serious discriminatory meaning".

The program looked at the "Japan-Britain Exhibition" held in London in 1910 to which Japan took several members of Taiwan's aboriginal population, including the father of the woman, as exotic exhibits, Jiji Press and Kyodo News reported.

Taiwan was a Japanese colony at the time, and the practice of exhibiting the little-known peoples of far-flung territories was a common one among Western imperial powers.

Historians say Japan, which had emerged from self-imposed isolation just half a century earlier, joined in partly as an attempt to establish itself as an imperial power and mitigate the perceived risk of being colonised itself.

In the ruling, Sudo said NHK "repeatedly used the term without giving consideration to its discriminatory meaning," which implied the people of the Paiwan -- Taiwan's indigenous population -- were uncivilized, the Tokyo Shimbun reported.

Some of those who took part did so earnestly, and not as mere curiosities, the judge said, according to the paper.

In a statement sent to AFP on Friday, NHK said: "We are sorry that our argument was not taken up. We will decide how to deal with the issue after studying closely the court's verdict."

© (c) 2013 AFP

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26 Comments
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NHK said: “We are sorry that our argument was not taken up.

So, NHK is unwilling to accept they were using racist and thus extremely offensive terms? It's simple - if someone tells you that you are being offensive about a person or people who you are not one of, then accept the criticism, apologise and don't do it again.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

They should pay! What the said was WRONG! But I thing they should pay more!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I've never been able to understand the Japanese patronistic attitude toward rustics and "primitive people." Li Koran (Yamaguchi Yoshiko) starred in a wartime film about an aboriginal Taiwanese, titled "Sayong no Kane" (the bell of Sayong). It can be watched on YouTube, and it's dreadful. Somebody should sue the studio for making that movie while they're at it.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

“We are sorry that our argument was not taken up. We will decide how to deal with the issue after studying closely the court’s verdict.”

Scumbags. They're not interested in 'studying' the verdict at all. Just interesting in thinking about how they can get off if they appeal. They don't even apologize for what they did and said, just for losing the court case. One more reason for not paying this dinosaur of a corporation.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Good for her!! NHK is racist right winged organization and they deserve what they got for the outlandish comments

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I love many things about Japan but its television certainly isn't one of them. After the switch to digital I didn't bother to buy a new TV or buy the tuner and I don't miss it at all. NHK as a public broadcaster should be a welcome refuge from the utter stupidity and vacuousness of the other channels but doesn't come anywhere near fulfilling that role. Its toothlessness in the face of government pressure makes it an insult to journalism and fee-payers and this lazy, thoughtless, patronizing racism isn't what people should expect from a responsible public broadcaster. Maybe it should stick to sumo and earthquake news as long as the latter doesn't involve any news the government decides isn't in the interest of the people.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I haven't watched this programme (have any of the posters proclaiming the obvious guilt of NHK seen it?) but I have seen snippets of it on youtube - though it's hard to tell which is actual NHK footage and which are bits put in by the uploader with an agenda of their own.

One theme of the programme, it seems, is the question of how Japan managed to descend from its position at it's 'debut' into the modern world in the Meiji period, down to the quagmire of WW2. As part of the description of how Japan was trying hard to be like the Big Boys (=the western colonial powers) it mentions the exhibition of ethnic Taiwanese at the Japan Exhibition held in London in 1910. As far as I can tell, the term 人間動物園(human zoo) is used to describe the contemporary attitude to the exhibit, not a modern NHK comment on the people being exhibited.

NHK “repeatedly used the term without giving consideration to its discriminatory meaning,” which implied the people of the Paiwan—Taiwan’s indigenous population—were uncivilized

At the time, that was the whole point of the exhibit. Unless there's something else, I don't see why the woman should get compensation from NHK. From the people who put her Dad in a human zoo, yes. From NHK, no.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_zoo

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Cleo: "At the time, that was the whole point of the exhibit. Unless there's something else, I don't see why the woman should get compensation from NHK. From the people who put her Dad in a human zoo, yes. From NHK, no."

I disagree, unless NHK did nothing to point out it was the term used at the time. Otherwise they were just using the term now as it was then. If I'm trying to educate people about African American culture, for example, and want to point out that the N-word was (still is in many cases) a diminutive commonly used and actually USE the N-word instead of explaining that that was what was used back then, it wouldn't fly very well. I haven't seen it either, so I'm wondering if they pointed it out by saying, "as they were called back then", or had captions with quotation marks around the word, or what not. If they did, then I agree with you.

Doesn't change the other things I said about NHK.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

This aint the first time folks. There is a history of Japanese film maker requesting peoples of South East Asia, Mongolia and Africa to dress in hides and foliage and act simian then showing how the Japanese instruct them on how to be civilized. Proof to the Japanese people that hey are a superior "race".

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

There is a history of Japanese film maker requesting peoples of South East Asia, Mongolia and Africa to dress in hides and foliage and act simian then showing how the Japanese instruct them on how to be civilized. Proof to the Japanese people that hey are a superior "race".

When I was a kid we often used to see footage on telly of 'primitive' tribes dressed in feathers and warpaint doing 'primitive' tribal dances, so I suppose there is a history of UK TV 'proving' to us Brits that we were a superior race, too. The point is that in the past that was considered normal in the west, and the NHK programme showed how Japan was trying to advance itself by copying the west. From what I've seen of the programme, there was no suggestion that NHK was trying to make out that Japan was superior - quite the opposite, in fact.

unless NHK did nothing to point out it was the term used at the time

It's the term used today to describe what happened then, and it denigrates the people who organised the exhibits and those who went along to ogle, not the people who were tricked or coerced into being exhibited.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

During the time JP colonized Taiwan, tens of thousands of indigenous Taiwanese were killed and many of their women were sent to do service as JP army comfort women, it's first time I know some people were sent to be "human zoo" members, really unbelivable! Anyway I'm happy the poor guy's daughter finally win compensation and more importantly, her father's honor!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

When I went to France, I was curiously looked at as there was no Japanese around. Discrimination persists in spite of our conscience against discriminating others.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

@Nobu1

When I went to France, I was curiously looked at as there was no Japanese around. Discrimination persists in spite of our conscience against discriminating others.

Guess you were in France on a short vacation? Now you might realise what it can be like for a foreigner, that is, non Japanese living in this country. The fact that people look at me no longer bothers me but it still goes on.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

cleo,

What is your point with bringing Britain into this? I just fail to see the relevance. Japan see themselves as the master race of Asia (if not te world) it's far to obvious after spending some time on these islands. NHK should, had they been a news organization of any worth, accept that they they erred in judgement by using derogatory terms in this day and age. Instead of using the Japanese boilerplate “We are sorry that our argument was not taken up. We will decide how to deal with the issue after studying closely the court’s verdict.”

They should have the balls to stand up and apologize. That they do not just shows how they really feel abou the issue.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

What is your point with bringing Britain into this? I just fail to see the relevance. Japan see themselves as the master race of Asia (if not te world)

The programme was about Japan trying to emulate the western colonial powers, one of which was Britain. The relevance is that Japan was not unique in its actions at the time.

If the programme had referred to the people in the exhibits as 'animals', then I would agree with all the posters baying for NHK blood; but as far as I can make out, that isn't the case. Saying that people were put in a 'human zoo' is no more derogatory to the people being exhibited than a description of the 'final solution' in any way infers that a 'solution' was needed or desirable, or is derogatory to the people who were on the receiving end of Nazi policies; it's just a statement of historical fact.

If anyone can come up with a link to an excerpt from the programme that shows the term was used in a manner that was insulting to the Paiwan people, I'd be happy to shut up.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Knox, the article mentions they were exhibited in Britain, so the contemporary attitude in Britain would be relevant, I would think.

Cleo has expressed what I was thinking. The story is much more subtle and complicated than the simple article above makes out. I read several Japanese articles to try and get behind it but it was so convoluted that I gave up.

It seems this 80-yr old lady and her family were always proud that her father had gone to London, but this NHK documentary exposing Japan's colonial past shattered the illusion and shocked her into a bitter disappointment. As to the scene of the old photo with the subtitle 人間動物園, Ningen Dobutsuen, (available with a search) it is true that the phrase is not placed in inverted commas as we might do in the west, and apparently the scene was not preceded with any preparatory wording or warning in advance. Not having seen the NHK program、 I find it hard to comment further.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It seems again that those who are commenting objectively have seen parts of the series on youtube (cleo and nandakandamanda) while others are just ranting for they haven't seen it and are merely reacting to the three letters "NHK".

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

the contemporary attitude in Britain would be relevant

Yes, but me watching telly as a kid wasn't contemporary with the 1910 Exhibition.

Just wanted to clear that up.....;-)

1 ( +3 / -2 )

From the Japanese point of view, the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition was something of a failure, especially since the reason for the participation by the Japanese Empire was to show and develop a favorable public image in (Great) Britain following the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. It was also hoped that the display of manufactured products would lead to increased trade.

The Japanese section had some disturbing displays which didn't communicate what the Japanese wanted. Displays about Taiwan, Korea, Kwantung Leased Territory and the Ainu from Hokkaido. Some of these displayed indigenous people in their village settings.

Another, showed a typical Japanese village which many Japanese visitors thought was an embarrassment, depicting the life of peasants in northeast Japan.

The "human zoos" were organised as sideshows by the entrepreneur who organized the exhibition. London based Japanese correspondents wrote that they were vulgar and discredited the Japanese Empire.

In Japanese history, the 1910 exhibition is missed.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Proof to the Japanese people that hey are a superior "race".

Many weeaboos actually still believe that. But these kind shows have been common in many countries until the 1960s.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I agree with Cleo "it's just a statement of historical fact." What it was was what it was. It is very important to inform the viewer the truth of the fact rather than changing the fact or misleading the fact. It is very important for all the Japanese to know that we, Japanese, were also bad people once. I hope "once."

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I tend to support Cleo on this. I am also a bit confused as to exactly what the Taiwanese lady is seeking compensation for. She was not defamed or slandered. She may have found it a little distressing, but the subject matter was too. Perhaps NHK could have handled the topic with more sensitivity but that is hardly a matter for cash compensation.

NHK should have apologized to the lady for its lack of sensitivity and sent her a bunch of flowers and that should have been the end of the matter.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I think Cleo's right. If NHK were reporting the use of the term as it was used at the time to describe the human exhibits then I don't think the station should be attacked like that. I seriously doubt NHK were calling the woman's relatives subhuman. The exhibition was probably the posh version of those Buffalo Bill shows where Native Americans were exhibited. You can't tell me they were treated as equals.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Ah_so wrote:

NHK should have apologized to the lady for its lack of sensitivity and sent her a bunch of flowers and that should have been the end of the matter.

And this is the crux of the matter. Not only haven't they apologised, they won't.

In the ruling, Sudo said NHK “repeatedly used the term without giving consideration to its discriminatory meaning,”

Even though the judge has said NHK is in the wrong.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Freshie - thanks for that link. This initially confused me -

"Other colonies of Japan and Britain were also represented at the event, but the Queen of England only attended the performances by the Gaoshih villagers showing their hunting rituals and marriage ceremony," Hua said.

They mean the new Queen Mary, I suppose.

Another link here: http://architokyo.wordpress.com/japan-british1910/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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